Leading researchers in fields from infectious diseases to peace recognized as Canada Research Chairs

HAMILTON, April 14, 2015: Two of the world's leading researchers in the fight against infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance are among those recognized as Canada Research Chairs in an announcement today by the Honourable Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women.

Leitch announced four new Canada Research Chairs for McMaster and celebrated the renewal of five of the university's current chairholders. The group of nine includes Heather Sheardown, who has been named Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Systems, and Gerry Wright, who has been renewed as Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry.

"Our government is proud to support science and technology through these chairholders, who solve some of the most pressing scientific, economic and social challenges in our country," Leitch says. "The Canada Research Chairs Program is driving innovation, addressing health, environmental and social issues, and spurring economic growth in our communities- all of which serve to improve the lives of Canadians."

Sheardown, a chemical engineer, has established McMaster University as an international leader in an area of great need and tremendous complexity: developing new drug-delivery systems and biomaterials to treat diseases and conditions affecting the eye.

Diseases of the eye are a significant burden to society. More than a million Canadians live with vision loss - a number that's expected to double over the next 25 years.

Sheardown works at the leading edge of her field, developing better biomaterials for contact or implanted lenses, new formulations for topical drops to provide long-lasting, effective treatment to front of the eye, and new methods for delivering therapeutic drugs to the back of the eye.

"Finding ways to deliver drugs to the eye, particularly the back of the eye, is the greatest single challenge in ophthalmology," Sheardown says. "People suffering from macular degeneration, glaucoma and other conditions need us to find ways to deliver precise amounts of drugs targeted to the desired tissue. My Canada Research Chair will provide my research team with the infrastructure we need to get the job done."

Wright, who is director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, oversees research to develop new antibiotics and to make existing antibiotics more effective- both critical to the global race against antimicrobial resistance.

"The sheer number of bacteria and their ability to outwit antibiotics by mutating and exchanging resistance genes present a menacing threat," he says. "The resources of the Canada Research Chair program improve our ability to develop new defences against this threat."

The nine Chairs represent $10,800,000 in total funding for researchers from health science, science, engineering and humanities recognized for their promise and their accomplishments.

"The University is extremely proud of the impressive variety of research undertaken by our Canada Research Chairs," says Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University. "As leading individuals in their fields, they inspire us with their depth of expertise and research excellence. As a group, they represent the range of disciplines that makes our research-intensive university so successful."

McMaster's Newest Research Chairs

Chemical Engineering professor Heather Sheardown has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Systems (Tier I) to continue her internationally recognized research in ophthalmic materials and drug delivery systems. Her research program will develop the next generation of biomaterials and delivery systems that can then be translated into novel treatments for a host of ophthalmic diseases.

Younggy Kim Assistant Professor, Civil Engineering, will use his Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Water and Health to develop new sustainable water and wastewater treatment technologies. Kim's wastewater and drinking water research seeks solutions for the challenges including the removal and reclamation of nutrients, heavy metals and biosolids, and providing reliable drinking water disinfection for underprivileged communities.

John Lavis, Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, has been awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Evidence-Informed Health Systems. His research program emphasizes "evidence-informed" health systems that will provide the best mix of cost-effective programs, services and drugs to those who need them. Lavis will evaluate innovative strategies that support the use of research evidence in health systems in Canada and internationally, and examine how context and issues influence these strategies.

Graham Scott is a comparative physiologist whose work focuses on how physiological systems function during environmental stress, how they are shaped during development, and how they evolve. Scott- an assistant professor in the Department of Biology- has earned a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Comparative and Environmental Physiology to examine how hypoxia-tolerant animals have solved the problems associated with oxygen deprivation, which will then provide perspective on issues related to human health (diseases involved oxygen limitation such as COPD and cardiovascular disease) and the environment (climate change and pollution).

Renewed Chairs

When the Canada Research Chairs program was first launched in 2000, only 195 recipients from across Canada were awarded prestigious chairs. The Chairs renewed in today's announcement were among the first group recognized by the federal government for their research excellence.

Gerry Wright's Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry has enabled his ground-breaking studies on the exploration of the origin and evolution of antibiotic resistance. Wright's lab has discovered that antibiotic resistance is ancient, by identifying resistance genes in 30,000-year-old permafrost samples and applied this fundamental information in the development of innovative strategies to identify new drugs and preserve the activities of existing ones. Wright also pioneered new approaches to identify antibiotic producing bacteria and applied this to identify new antibiotics.

Research mathematician Walter Craig will continue his work in partial differential equations (PDEs) and Hamiltonian dynamical systems and their applications in the physical sciences. Craig's Tier 1 Canada Research Chair of Mathematical Analysis and its Applications provides him with the opportunity to study properties of several PDEs that arise in the physical sciences and engineering, in particular those physical processes such as mechanics, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Jamal Deen, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, will maintain his world-class research program with his Canada Research Chair in Information Technology. Deen's Tier 1 Chair focuses on the modeling, design and application of high-performance photodetectors and integrated imagers, especially for emerging applications in health sciences, biomolecular sciences, environmental monitoring and chemistry.

Nicholas Griffin, Professor, Department of Philosophy, was first awarded his Canada Research Chair in Russell, Peace and the 20th Century in 2001, the year after the Bertrand Russell Research Centre (BRRC) was established on campus to provide a central focus for Russell research worldwide. Griffin's Chair has been central to supporting and expanding the work of the BRRC, and to Russell scholarship worldwide. The combination of Griffin's Tier 1 Chair, the impressive work of the BRCC and the Russell Archives (the most extensive collection of original material by or about Russell in the world) has made McMaster the leading international centre for both philosophical and non-philosophical research on Russell.

Adam Hitchcock, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Materials Research- CLS/CCRS has developed novel instrumentation, techniques and applications for synchrotron X-ray microscopy, including world firsts in: spectro-tomography (3D chemical mapping), soft X-ray fluorescence detection (enhanced sensitivity), chemically selective lithography, and in situ systems (electrochemistry, humidity, temperature). Hitchcock's research results have contributed to improving knowledge about: protein-polymer interactions (biomaterials), biological magnetism, nanomaterials and hydrogen fuel cell materials.

As a result of McMaster University's success in securing Tri-Council funding, the University's total allocation of Canada Research Chairs increased from 70 to 72. With today's announcement, McMaster has 68 researchers currently holding a Chair.

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